Archive for the ‘Physics’ Category

Critics and supporters alike have long based their views of gaming on the iPhone and iPad on the production values of games in the form of graphics and animation.  Gameplay aside, many players do use the mantra of judging a book by its cover to make buying decisions.  With its first mobile release Fibble, Crytek obviously knew what it was doing delivering one of the most graphically amazing, near console-quality games to arrive on the platform.  While the simple, yet challenging puzzle game provides adequate fun, Fibble is one where looks is really the name of the game.

The game follows the adventures of Fibble, a cute orange alien who crash lands on Earth inside of all things a suburban home.  The goal is to help the chubby dude navigate through the home, find his friends, and return to his home planet.

I grew up watching Toy Story, and I have to say that Fibble borders on that level of animation and detail.  The 3D graphics are beautifully rendered crafted models, accompanied by perfect lighting and great textures that pop off the iPad screen.  Vibrant colors and the attention to details should garner Crytek an award just for the visuals.

The game takes place in four rooms: Kitchen, Kid’s Room, Bathroom and Basement with 30 levels.  The various rooms are highly detailed and the artwork really highlights what is possible for the platform.  From the coffee beans sitting on the kitchen counter and knick-knacks in the basement to the toy soldiers in the kid’s bedroom and shampoo bottle in the bathroom, you’ll see this is quite the accomplishment.

Within each room are stars and coins that can be collected to unlock rooms as well a key that unlocks bonus levels.  Fibble does offer IAP for players who want to unlock all rooms or bonus levels at once, and also a Flying Saucer to aid in collecting coins and stars.  Keep in mind that none of the IAP are needed to progress in the game which should silence the non-IAP fans in us.

Along for Fibble’s journey through suburban living are his friends—Byte, Docto, Vroom, Ragno, Klonk—each with his own special abilities. The creatures are as cute as Fibble, and the devs instill them with personality and humor.  For example, Byte is three-eyed cave digger who helps Fibble jump ledges, while Docto is a multi-legged octopus whose ability to redirect Fibble in new directions comes in handy.

Put simply, the gameplay is really physics-based hole in one.  Using touch gestures, players drag Fibble back to control the intensity and direction and then release to send him on his merry journey.  The level design is worth noting because of the great 3D animation and graphics.  Each level consists of paths become more elaborate deeper into the game.  The paths are illustrated with arrows pointing in the direction that Fibble travels so there’s a bit of planning and visualization required on the player’s part.  Coins and stars dot the path along with bumpers along key corners that can be used to project or continue Fibble’s momentum.  To succeed in the level, players must get Fibble to the end which is literally a hole.

The devs do a fairly good job of creating levels that are visually complex.  I say “visually complex” because the levels aren’t overly difficult to complete, but more on that later.  There are levels that involve a number of twists and turns, jumps and sliding obstacles, switches and platforms that are more than challenging.  And, the game’s drag and zoom functionality work well in scoping out the landscape.  Not that players haven’t seen this before in the iTunes store, the challenge is using what’s available to your advantage.  As mentioned with scoring, the neat part of the game which takes on a Rube Goldberg-esque feel is that from a technical standpoint, players should be able to complete each level with one flick.

An added dynamic involve Fibble’s friends and in later levels, players have the flexibility and challenge in placing these friends on specially marked areas.  The twist to the gameplay is that players can activate these special abilities through well-timed tapping on the screen.  Tap too late, and you may not get the speed boost needed from Vroom to get Fibble up an steep pathway.  Jumping ledges can also be just as difficult because tapping Byte a little too soon can send Fibble over the side.  It goes without saying that placing these friends at the wrong spot can result in dire consequences for Fibble so you’ll definitely want to experiment.

Because of Fibble’s rolling ability, another little twist to keep in mind is that players can use the device’s accelerometer to tilt and change Fibble’s direction.  Whenever Fibble begins losing momentum, tilting the device can provide just the right boost to keep him going.  This along with the other touches really does add some zing to the physics part of the game.

All this sounds like it should add up to great gameplay, but the execution teeters a bit along the way.  While experimenting makes the game challenging, Fibble is in many ways moderately easy for advanced players.  This is disappointing and ties into a drawback of the game: scoring.  In practice, each level provides an opportunity to win a gold, silver or bronze medal, and at the beginning of levels, milestones are provided that describe those parameters.  These can range from meeting scoring requirements to how often the special abilities of Fibble’s friends are used.  Scoring is also based on how quickly levels are completed as well as coins and stars collected.

The reality is that achieving a gold medal becomes a relatively easy and less than satisfying exercise.  Without even collecting all the coins and stars within levels can result in a gold medal which tends to defeat the purpose of the system in the first place.  The game does offer GameCenter support for high scores along with in-game achievements that range from completing levels and rooms and objectives to creative uses of Fibble’s friends.

Having said all this, while the game is generally fun, it is decidedly average when compared to the great 3D animation.  To some, the overwhelmingly great animation fairly or not will likely not overcome the actual gameplay.  Typically, an argument can be made that high-caliber gameplay matters more than visuals.  This is one of those instances where the visuals set a high bar and leaves the gameplay a few notches below.  So players will need to decide for themselves whether the actual game elements are of interest.

Overall, Fibble will receive a load of well-deserved praises for this 3D animation masterpiece.  Rightfully so, the game is arguably one of the best looking games for the platform.  While the adequate gameplay should appeal to many with quirky characters and terrific game mechanics, it may also leave some wondering if that beauty is just skin deep.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (amazing 3D animation and artwork among the best on the platform; gameplay concept with some terrifically visual and complex level designs; puzzle difficulty borders on the easy side for advanced players; more ideal for novice and younger players; scoring more forgiving than it should be; GameCenter support and achievements)

Physics-based games have become a staple of the iTunes store.  Testing our ability to think logically and plan ahead, they are a fun way to keep your mind sharp.  Angry Birds in its many iterations really helped the genre gain popularity with the masses.  It’s safe to say that a worthy competitor has arrived with Twiitch’s Coco Loco, a wacky and humorous game that in some ways leaves the flock behind.  Featuring a potpourri of chocolate villains and a crazy cast of eccentrically sweet heroes, Coco Loco is an addictive adventure not only satisfies the sweet tooth of fans of the genre, but should draw more in with its epic hilarity.

Coco Loco’s publisher Chillingo seemingly has a propensity to release at least one physics-based game each week.  It would be a mistake to consider Coco Loco just another one of those games.  The amusing storyline takes place in the Land of Chocolate where some Marshmallows have gone in search of, you guessed it, hot chocolate.  They manage to find this chocolate dreamland but then become imprisoned by Coco Bean Guardians and are forced to dress as celebrities.  Yes, it’s quite the brutal punishment, but of course, all is not lost as a rag tag group of candy heroes comes to the rescue.

This little world is not only ridiculously funny, but it’s actually a neat one that allows players to experiment in many different ways.  Currently, Coco Loco has 4 chapters—Rolling Hills, Temple Morning, Temple Sunset, Cavern World—each with 15 progressively difficult levels.  Players can earn up to 3 stars per level based on the many of the “tools” are used to free your marshmallow comrades.

I’ve never played a game where it was just as enjoyable to fail as it was to succeed.  The scenarios the devs created are just plain fun to observe.  The Marshmallows in distress are typically housed in structures with explosives, cement, rocks, and of course, the Coco Bean Guardians.  But Coco Loco goes one step further in building a personality-laden world.  What you also come across are worlds full of jelly, hot chocolate, wind tunnels, and geysers.  While this all sounds crazy, it makes for a fun yet challenging experience.

The heroes in Coco Loco resemble a Swiss Miss version of the X-Men because they each have special and very unique powers.  Fortunately, there’s an almanac that keeps track of heroes as you unlock them through the levels.  These heroes have names such as Marty Marzipan, Billy Batter, Jelly Gumble, Neapolitan Dynamite, Sammy Sumo, Donutella, Corporal Clinker, and not to be forgotten Marsha Marsha Marsha.  That’s only a partial list, but the powers are all that matter.

Creatively speaking, the powers of some of these marshmallow gang members are wonderful.  Jelly Gumble can expand into a giant blob while Sammy Sumo can instantly slam into anything once activated.  Then there’s Neapolitan Dynamite with an explosive short fuse that packs quite the bang.  Donutella is the ninja of the group who has a sharp personality that cuts like butter.  If anything, this should give you an idea of what’s in store.

Get this…launching these heroes is done with a baseball bat of all things.  The controls involve simply dragging Billy Batter back, aiming with the arrow and then releasing.  And in most cases, tapping the hero, for example Jelly Gumble, will activate the special power which in Jelly’s case, transforms him into a giant goo.

Players can also pinch to zoom in and out and drag to pan the screen.  The graphics and animation are terrific and run smoothly on an iPad, and the whimsical soundtrack will have you humming long after you’re done destroying the chocolate villains.

Coco Loco offers plenty of challenges that will have you scratching your head and laughing at the same time.  Early on, you’ll need to plan for how to deal not only with wind currents and explosions, but also chocolate currents and jelly flow among other things.  The liquid physics are one of the biggest strengths, and you’ll spend part of the time dealing with hot chocolate breaches or managing jelly slides.

An additional challenge is collecting gold coins within each level which adds some replay value in terms of maximizing your high score.  Another weird, yet noteworthy addition is what I call Coco Loco’s nuclear option known happily as Fluffy, a rambunctious bull terrier. If you have trouble solving a puzzle, activating Fluffy will set him off on a playful rampage destroying everything in sight while setting the Marshmallow captives free.  Fortunately, this is the only part of Coco Loco that involves IAP.

GameCenter support currently provides 27 achievements from the basics such as high score and collecting coins to wacky milestones such as direct or awkward hits involving specific heroes.

The only shortcoming with Coco Loco is you may find yourself out of levels (even though there are 60 of them) and waiting for more in future updates.  It’s an addictive adventure that will leave you wanting for more.

Coco Loco is a fantastic physics-based game complete with a wacky storyline, quirky characters and wonderfully challenging scenarios.  If you’ve never been a fan of this genre, Coco Loco may just change your mind.  For the rest of us, this one is a keeper.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (wacky world with equally quirky characters make this top notch; challenging levels should keep you engaged; great overall presentation, smooth controls with addictive gameplay; GameCenter support)

Lately, I’ve come across a fair share of questionable games that border on sexist and exploitative. So when Alice’s Adventures: Rabbit Hole of Death crossed my jaded eyes, I was thinking (hoping?) this was yet another in the exploitative category. Color me surprised because Alice delivers a fun, yet thrillingly guilty ride down the iTunes rabbit hole. While the game drifts more towards a mature audience (I’m on a game site for Pete’s sake), I wouldn’t let that fool you into thinking that Alice’s Adventure is only skin deep.

The Devsisters, the creative minds behind Alice’s Adventures turns the Lewis Carroll classic on its head in a matter of speaking. Combining a puzzle with body bending mechanics, Alice is on a mission to retrieve treasures hidden in the Rabbit’s Hole. Your task should you have the nerve to accept is to guide Alice through the obstacle-filled hole while collecting treasures and potions along the way. The hitch is that you’ll have to manipulate and contort Alice’s body in various positions to get her through the obstacles.

Graphically, this is one of those games that is as fun to look at especially when you’re toying around with Alice as it is to play. Alice is in lingerie with garter belts if that tells you anything, although you won’t get a view of too much cleavage since your view is from behind. Alice also displays her personality with rather alluring voiceovers as she succeeds or crashes into obstacles. Frankly, I found myself a bit torn between helping her succeed or letting her hit the obstacles, although you do feel guilty either way.

The game has 4 stages with local and online scoring. In order to progress, Alice needs to collect cards by accurately falling through the holes. Accuracy counts and you’ll hear Alice complaining about a skinned knee for example when you’re not. The more accurate you are, the more cards you collect.

The upper left corner shows the upcoming obstacle with a timer to show how long before encountering the obstacle. For an extra challenge, you can also tap the gauge to speed up Alice’s descent. At the bottom of the screen is Alice’s health gauge along with text dialogue from Alice as she’s hurling through the hole.

Along her fall down the hole, you can also collect bonus items—Rabbit and Potion—that will reward you with points and Alice with health. However, there’s also a Skull Rabbit which will deduct points, and it can be difficult to make out the Rabbit from the Skull Rabbit so be warned. You simply tap to collect, which can be challenging task since you’re also setting Alice in different positions at the same time.

As you progress through the levels, Alice’s descent increases, which means you’ll need to position her quickly. The gameplay is different from anything you’ve seen mainly because of how Alice is positioned. The animation and the body movements run very smoothly. The game doesn’t have many levels, and the game does not save progress which is a bit of an oversight since you’ll need to put Alice through this torturous fall from the beginning if your phone should ring.

Overall, Alice’s Adventure doesn’t introduce a new concept, but it does add a good degree of zing and humor that should appeal to the testosterone crowd. The game mechanics are a strong point of the game, and I’d like see the Devsisters incorporate it in other games.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (good humored game with more than meets the eye if that matters; game mechanics and animation are well done and hopefully used in future games; game only has 4 levels; definitely not usual iTunes fare)

iBlast Moki delivers a blast of a time

Posted: September 17, 2009 in Physics

One of my favorite shows growing up was MacGyver who without fail could fashion a running motor out of a rubber band, paper clip, and a carbonated beverage. While most of us are probably not physics experts, the iPhone/iPod Touch platform has proven to be an ideal venue for physics-based games. Of course, finding a game that will keep you engaged for a while is a whole different matter. But whether or not you’re a physics fan, iBlast Moki may be the game you’re looking for that combines fun looking visuals, lively music tracks, and most importantly, challenging gameplay.

After planning to spend a few minutes with the title, I quickly lost myself in the world of Mokis, and I think you will too. Visually, iBlast Moki has impressive graphics and animation that run lag free on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. And the physics are well implemented for the simple fact that things behave and feel natural. It’s apparent that the devs spent a good amount of time developing and producing this game.

Using a variety of tools, you’re tasked with getting mokis to the exit portal. It’s not as simple as it seems because these portals are usually located in inconvenient places surrounded by different hurdles and environmental conditions. The mokis are cute and relatively helpless, and it’s their hapless situation that tests your noggin.

The game consists of 70 levels spread over 6 worlds—Mokiland, Blowingland, Waterland, Mountainland, Induland, Mokitozor. Mokiland is the only unlocked world to start, and in order to unlock others, a minimum number of puzzles must be solved in the previous world. The different terrains throw different curves at you, and since you’re limited in the tools at hand, success requires a bit of planning and trial and error. Presented in a tool bar along the right side of the screen, items available for use include some combination of bombs, rope, bars, wheels, screws and balloons. Keep in mind that bombs can be set with a time delay before exploding. Not all of the items are always available, and in some cases, you literally have one item to work with. To place items, you drag them off the tool bar and place accordingly.

To help you along in this moki journey, you can pan the levels by dragging the screen as well as pinch to zoom in/out to get a better look. Honestly, I found myself using the puzzles as an excuse just to check out the scenery.

Within each level, you have the opportunity to earn a gold, silver or bronze medal which initially is based on time, but eventually evolves towards collecting flowers. Daisies can be found in the levels, and part of the challenge is to have your moki collect the flowers on his or her way to the portal. Miss all of the flowers, and the best you’ll do is earn a bronze medal. One nice touch is that you can always go back to re-play unlocked levels to try and improve your score.

As for the gameplay, it’s pretty straightforward and even includes several boss levels which are both fun and challenging. As you place items, a ring appears around the item which you can use to rotate accordingly. A trajectory guide also appears that shows the projected movement or direction of the moki based on the placement. While you would think that this helpful tool would make things easier, you’d be wrong. On occasion, I did find it difficult to rotate items especially with bombs since the ring can be used to move the item as well as set a delay timer on the impending detonation. As I mentioned, this game involves a fair share of trial and error, but your success is rewarded in the game’s achievement system available online through Plus+. These include completing certain worlds, earning gold medals, and boss victories.

While I think that 70 levels will keep most of us content, iBlast Moki also features a level editor tool called Creations where you create your own levels and share them. Intuitively set up, the user community can then download and rate them accordingly.

Overall, iBlast Moki delivers fun and entertaining experience that really reaches a broad audience. The lightheartedness balanced by the difficulty should attract both casual gamers and more experienced players looking for something fresh. This is a solid and well-done physics-based game that should make the devs proud.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (recommended for puzzlers looking for an entertainting take on the physics-based gaming; high quality graphics with gameplay to match; editor tool should keeping this game fresh)

Enigmo 2—who says sequels are bad?!

Posted: September 2, 2009 in Physics, Puzzle

Physics-and kinetic-based games have always interested me even though I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in an engineering lab. Having been a big fan of the original Enigmo, Enigmo 2 was an automatic purchase for me. And for the most part, it’s even better than it’s older sibling with better graphics and more varied elements to liven up the gameplay.

With these types of games, the task at hand always looks easier than it really is, and Enigmo 2 is no different. The objective sounds simple enough: direct water, lasers and plasma to various static collectors to collect the minimum amount of units necessary in that stage. In the early stages, the game is relatively easy but the difficulty increases significantly when that task involves directing varying combinations of water, lasers and plasma simultaneously. If you can manage to successfully get through the 50 levels, then the devs at Pangea should give you an award. On the other hand, if you’re easily frustrated, then you may feel more comfortable with a hack and slash game.

Visually speaking, Enigmo 2 offers great looking 3D graphics which gives the puzzles a feeling of height, width and depth, which is only furthered by the ability to rotate puzzles, change views and pinch zoom. Set in space, Enigmo 2 is presented against a backdrop of rotating planetary bodies. Visually this looks beautiful and I had no lag on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. However, the graphics can impact battery life so an option is included to turn off the planets.

The mellow sound track complements the game’s space theme nicely, and is mostly calming yet upbeat. And the sound effects are as realistic as water drops and lasers can be. Honestly, though, the sound of constant water drops can be a form of mental torture for some, while others may find it soothing and relaxing. Fortunately, an option to turn off sounds is included. Scoring is accomplished based on how quickly puzzles are solved—the faster you solve them, the more points awarded.

In general, the controls are responsive, and involve touching and dragging items to place. But as with the original, the controls can be a love/hate relationship. While they are perfectly fine, the objects that you drag to place tend to be on the small side which can cause problems in terms of accurate placement. Rotating items involves rotating a small ring around the object and sometimes precision can be problematic for people with bigger fingers again because of the smaller size objects. Combined with the time element, the game can be more challenging in more ways than one. Additional features include redo and undo buttons and an original view option which I find comes in handy to reset the puzzle to its original orientation.

If you have any experience with the original, then the gameplay in Enigmo 2 is similar, although new elements require different strategies. Obstacles including force fields and walls will stand in your way, but you have a different set of tools at your disposal. These include drums for diverting water, mirrors for directing lasers, and magneto spheres for rerouting plasma streams. The addition of lasers is a rather interesting one because they will bounce off any metal surface numerous times, and it can either be the easiest or one of the most difficult to harness. Again, the upgraded graphics make watching lasers and plasma particles for example that much more eye catching and dramatic, and set against the various spatial backdrops, really give this puzzler some punch. Additional elements include teleporters and gravity invertors which frankly require practice to fully harness.

Having said that, practice does help, but one shortcoming with Enigmo 2 is that you can’t go back to previously completed levels to improve scores, although 4 save slots are available for saving game progress. It would be ideal to go back to improve scores, but this is definitely a minor complaint.

Like its predecessor, Enigmo 2 is a terrific physics-and kinetics-based game where the 3D graphics and visuals make it a stand out in the category. In some ways, if you have no experience whatsoever with the Enigmo series, playing Enigmo 2 may spoil you because it’s that much better than the original. And if you’re an Enigmo veteran like me, then you’ll discover that Enigmo 2 offers a satisfying experience all its own.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (the sequel in this case does the original proud; well-done graphics and visuals with enough new elements to deliver a satisfying experience; not intended for the impatient, easily frustrated or prone to alcoholic beverages)

I remember when I played Monster Trucks Nitro on my iPod Touch 2g, and feeling pretty disappointed at the lack of depth. The visuals looked great, but the game was over even before it started. With Red Bull X-Fighters, I not only have a game that has a ton of content, but it provides the rush that comes from doing crazy aerial acrobatics and throws in a heavy dose of agony when hitting a sandpile at full speed. This is Monster Trucks Nitro motocross style and significantly better.

While the 3D visuals in X-Fighters are amazingly presented, it’s the mechanics and physics that really deserve applause. A choice of tilt and touch buttons are available, although I highly recommend using tilt since they feel more responsive and natural. This game isn’t simply about doing tricks which I will get to shortly. It’s about balance and using intelligence when performing. The motorcycle auto accelerates which is both a good and bad thing, which you soon find out, although a brake button is included. Using the tilt to balance on your back wheel can increase speed even more, but the landing also requires some finesse. In other words, doing tricks may sound fun, but it won’t matter much if you can’t stick the landing.

The replay value comes from improving your score and earning trophies, but to be honest, the entertainment value comes from focusing on tricks and creating combos. The crashes are entertaining as well with the use of ragdoll physics for the biker. You’re almost not sure whether to laugh or feel sorry as he gets laid out on a sand dune or run over by his on motorcycle. Visually, the animation is smooth and detailed, and in my opinion, some of the best out there. The devs did a terrific job creating realistic visuals for tricks and the environments. You do feel like you’re really in a stadium with flashing lights and cheering crowds with edgy music rounding out the package.

The game has a multitude of tricks that are learned as you progress through each level. Each level is a short track that requires you to meet certain objectives to advance. These can be either be performing a certain number of tricks which earn points or are time specific in reaching the finish line. A gold, silver or bronze trophy can be earned, and scoring requirements are shown at the beginning of each level with a minimum bronze needed in order to unlock further levels.

The tricks are accomplished through specific finger swipes which take practice especially when you’re also balancing the bike as it lands. Memorizing finger swipes especially when there are 20 different tricks is not an easy task. What the devs have creatively done is included the tricks you’ve learned on the screen during gameplay so you can perform any number of them, and as levels are successfully completed, those tricks are added to your Trick Book. The Trick Book comes in handy because you can refer back as a refresher to see how tricks are performed.

X-Fighters also has an achievement system that provides awards for completing stunts, trophies won, and even for crashes. Sadly, I’ve already earned the Emergency Ward award for crashing so many times. The game also includes unlockable bikes and outfits that are earned through achievements and by gaining fans. For each race successful or not, fans are gained for your courage…or possibly for your insanity. The more successful you are, the more fans or following you will earn, thus unlocking additional items faster.

In addition, a detailed statistics page is provided that tracks everything from the basics (# of races, crashes, events) to the crazy (flips per jump, greatest combo, most painful crash). There are too many to list here, but believe me, there are plenty of neat stats.

The game also has a great tutorial covering the basics such as acceleration, handling and basic tricks. In all, there are 8 locations with 60 levels and from personal experience, will last quite a while. The camera work is done fairly well especially when you catch air, and you’re 75 feet in the air with the crowd below. And a rather neat addition is the demo function which provides run through of the course so you have an idea of how to prepare for each track. The game mechanics are not overly challenging to learn and are flexible enough that performing wheelies for example is a no brainer. But tilt too far back and you’ll get more than dirt in your face. I do wish the courses were longer because they are on the short side, and the finger gestures aren’t very forgiving. And succeed or crash, you can watch it all over again with the replay function available at the finish of each event.

X-Fighters is a fun and strangely addicting freestyle motocross game that is challenging and offers a strong adrenaline rush. While the game may not appeal to everyone, the multitude of tricks and acrobatics along with a ton of levels should keep those who venture this way occupied in what could be worthwhile experience.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (highly recommended for motocross and physics-game fans; slight learning curve with the controls, but plenty of depth; replay value in earning high scores and trophies)

The iPhone/iPod Touch is the perfect platform for playing marble and labyrinth-type games that use accelerometer and tilt controls. In the iTunes store, there are various choices if you’re seeking a ball rolling experience. But a problem that is not so uncommon is what I like to call wacked ball physics syndrome where the ball or marble doesn’t act or react like it would in the real world. This usually negatively impacts the maneuvering and ball physics during gameplay. That’s why I was happily surprised and impressed by Curse of the Lost Tomb, a polished take on the ball rolling category that not only offers realistic and challenging gameplay, but comes with an intriguing storyline surrounded by buried treasure.

The game succeeds in creating not only a realistic experience, but a fun one as well. The concept is nothing new—roll a marble around various levels collecting objects and cross the finish line as fast as you can to unlock new objects. The game has 20 levels that you unlock as mazes are completed. With detailed 3D environments covering everything from the hanging shadows to the tiles on the floor, the game looks great. The mazes begin very simply where you maneuver through tight spaces, but they become much more elaborate as you progress. And a soothing Middle Eastern-type soundtrack rounds out the presentation.

That’s not the inspired part though. This is…the game is designed around the Ancient Egypt theme so each of the mazes is really passageways through a pharaoh’s tomb. As you maneuver through the narrow passages which by the fall off into nowhere, you’ll come across old vases, pits and giant swinging hammers that stand in your way. In addition, quicksand and mummies are big gotchas so you’ll need to figure ways around them as well. One more thing worth mentioning is the calibration function. Literally, it’s a marble on a tile floor which you roll around to the proper calibration angle.

What I especially like about Curse of the Lost Tomb is the storyline, which obviously involves hidden treasure. As you travel through the mazes, special vases contain gold that you can smash to collect. Besides using the spot-on accelerometer controls, you can tap on the ball to create a shockwave. This shockwave can destroy vases, and it can also temporarily hold back mummies.

The folklore around Egyptian tombs is hidden passages, and there’s no shortage of those. Often stone doors will prevent your ball from entry, and in order to unlock these doors, special fire pits are located at random spots. The objective is to light your ball with the fire, and once that is done, maneuver the ball towards special torches which must be lit to unlock the doors. Unlock them and they can lead to the treasure and exit or along another passageway. There are even spots where stones need to be moved to reveal hidden coins. It’s really a well-designed mechanic in the game that adds yet another wrinkle. Other challenges exist as well, but those are best discovered on your own.

At the end a successfully completed maze, a statistics page appears showing score, coins collected and time. Based on how quickly you finish certain mazes, complete a series of mazes or number of coins collected will unlock additional balls for your use. These include a soccer ball, skull and a goldfish, and they do come in handy in later stages.

While the 20 levels sound minimal, the replay value comes from unlocking items as well high scores on the online scoreboard. The dev has already mentioned additional levels, and I can only guess at how creative and elaborate those will be. Something the dev may want to consider is enhancing the achievement system to offer different types of treasure based on the time it takes to complete a maze similar to a gold, silver and bronze award set up. Multiple camera angles may be a good way to further show off the mazes because you definitely want to take the time to see the details.

As I mentioned in the beginning, there are a handful of worthwhile maze and labyrinth games in the iTunes store, and Curse of the Lost Tomb belongs on that list. While the mazes are challenging, they are not frustratingly impossible. The accelerometer controls are great, and anyone who enjoys this type of game or is looking to try should be able to pick this up and play with a minimal learning curve. If you’re looking for a challenging, entertaining, and great looking game, Curse of the Lost Tomb is a definitely worth it.

Albie Meter: 4 stars (recommended for maze lovers looking for a slightly new take on the category; polished and complete game that should appeal to many)